Using Social to Build Buzz
It started with Radiohead in 2016. Their fanbase was shocked when they began to wipe all content off of their social media pages — to announce the release of their ninth album A Moon Shaped Pool. Deleting their content and the subsequent online gossip that followed led to an increase in over 300k followers over the next month for the band. The album itself eventually reached number one in the UK and reached number three on the Billboard 200.
Sourced via LinkedIn.
In 2017, Taylor Swift cleared her entire Instagram to date to begin teasing the launch of what was soon to be known as her reputation era. Taylor is a large enough star that national publications covered this mystery and fueled the rumor mill for weeks. Not only did she delete her posts, but she also unfollowed everyone and blocked her official website.
Radiohead started the trend that Taylor Swift and other brands are trying now called: ‘clearing the channel.’ When Taylor started to post again, it was with cryptic snake videos. The less she explained, the more articles were written, and the more frenzy followed. Taylor’s social media strategy built up a new type of hype rather than a standard album drop — she broke her own and superstore Target’s previously held record for highest number of pre-sales and ended up being 2017’s biggest album drop of the year.
Since then other celebrities (including Miley Cyrus whose channel, as of post time, is still dark) have used this technique for various reasons. Such drastic actions can lead to completely organically produced viral moments — all without spending a dime on additional creative resources. Blake Lively recently took a two-pronged approach to her announcement: she cleared her channel and then followed only Instagram users named “Emily Nelson.” A few days later, she released the trailer for her upcoming movie A Simple Favor where her character’s name is, of course, Emily Nelson.
Celebrities are intensely scrutinized by their fans. They communicate through not just the words on their social media channels but by their actions. Fans and media outlets often know if a celebrity couple has broken up before any official statement has been released because of changes in follow status or if one half of the relationship doesn’t like as many posts of the other as they used to.
As a platform, Instagram realized that brands want to be able to take advantage of this type of roll out. They released a new feature last year called ‘archiving‘ that lets a person hide posts from everyone but the relief of keeping every post safe on the back end. And it’s not just celebrities who are making the dramatic social moves anymore. Most recently, Whole Foods cleared their Instagram account and began following only a few people: Beyonce, Sting, and Cardi B. They had organic pick up across other platforms with conspiracy theorists abound.
It all led to getting buzz started up about their new partnership with their own nonprofit to raise $100,000 for beehives (Beyonce, Sting – get it?) installed in schools across the country.
Celebrities often drive new social media trends and their advantage is having a GenZ audience that’s learned to read and analyze their every move, whether it’s a follow or an unfollow or a like on this or that post. It behooves brands to watch and take notes on how the GenZ audience uses social media to communicate. In this case, Instagram itself has seen how users want to use their platform and have made adjustments to make it even easier for brands to leverage.
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If your business wants to make a statement but keep historical creative intact on any platform, consider paring down and shaping your message in who you follow the way Whole Foods did. Or you could archive content that does not follow a very specific color palette or theme to keep creative cohesive. Because Instagram is so visual, there are a ton of innovative ways a brand can craft their image, excite their fans, or entice new ones to follow.
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